Saturday, February 4, 2023

Euro round-up: Belgium/Denmark emotional, Netherlands/Austria dull

Happy Friday to you all.

Let’s round up the Euros. The first game was one of those on in the background ones when I was doing other stuff, but Ukraine’s 2-1 over North Macedonia was pretty entertaining. Decent goals, penalty saves, and a game that went to the wire, so to speak.

Then we had Denmark against Belgium, and that was a classic ‘great game for the neutral’. Given everything that had happened with Christian Eriksen, it was an emotional afternoon – summed up much better than I could by Nick Ames in the Guardian here. Denmark’s early goal set the tone, then the pause on 10 minutes for Eriksen, followed by more storming play from a Danish side very clearly feeling the weight of the occasion and determined to mark it with a win.

Things changed in the second half though, and the introduction of Kevin de Bruyne really had an impact. Romelu Lukaku’s run was excellent, but the first touch and almost casual assist for the equaliser were demonstrations of the Man City man’s quality. His finish to put Belgium ahead was unerring too. At first I wondered if there was some goalkeeper error, but I really don’t think so. The power and the accuracy with his left foot were just too much for Kaspar Schmeichel.

Denmark just couldn’t match the intensity of the first half, and when you see the opposition bring on players of the quality of de Bruyne, and reputation of Eden Hazard, it must make the legs feel super heavy. They went right to the end though, almost scoring with Martin Braithwaite hitting the bar with a header, and when Schmeichel went up for a corner deep into injury time, I really hoped the Hollywood script writers were about to give us a moment that would have been truly special, but Belgium spoiled it by, you know, defending well.

The evening game was Netherlands v Austria and although we had two goals, I think this was the worst game of the tournament for me so far. Frenkie de Jong is a lovely player to watch and Wijnaldum obviously stands out, but beyond that, the Dutch lack the spark and genuine quality that so many of their teams have had down the years. Memphis Depay, no offence or anything, but he’s pretty uninspiring to me. Stuck his penalty away well, in fairness, but missed a glorious chance to make it 2-0 just before the break.

I was interested in the discussion at half-time on the BBC which was critical of Wout Weghorst for passing to him instead of shooting. I don’t know what the xG was of the chance itself, but in old fashioned terms it was 100% a ‘He’s got to score from there’. I wonder if it had been a Dennis Bergkamp pass – for example – if they’d be blaming the man who provided the chance and seemingly giving a free pass (more or less) to the man who missed it? I get why you want to see a striker shoot from there, but it’s not as if he made a mess of the opportunity. It was – for me anyway – a shocker from Memphis, who almost could have walked it in.

To be fair to the Lyon man, he was involved in the second goal, sending former young Gunner Donyell Malen behind and his pass to Denzel Dumfries was tucked away to secure the win. It sparked the usual ‘Why did we let him go?’ stuff, but that’s just the way it happens sometimes. I don’t think he was ready for us at the time, and the pathway was probably quite difficult as well, so he left and made good progress in his career. Fair play to him. That said, and acknowledging how difficult it can be to be 100% sure about players at a young age, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if we might have done a little bit better with some of the talent that has departed in the last few years.

Austria never looked scoring. I think I heard the commentator refer to them as a dour side, but they just lacked any real attacking or creative threat. If I had to sum them up, I would say that Austria are the Switzerland of Austria.

Today, it’s Sweden v Slovakia early on, followed the Croatia v Czech Republic, and then the big one this evening: England v Scotland. I’m reliably informed that there may be some historical reason as to why this might be a game of some intensity for players and fans alike. As a neutral, I’m hoping it’s absolutely mental. I read that Kieran Tierney has been declared fit (don’t lie to me random Scottish site that popped up on NewsNow), so that will add some Arsenal related spice to it all.

Not a lot happening from an Arsenal perspective, and sadly it looks as if Gennaro Gattuso to Sp*rs isn’t happening now. That would have been quite fun. Him losing his temper, running onto the pitch and loafing … Eric Dier in the middle of a game would have made for glorious television next season.

Right, I will leave you with a brand new Arsecast in which Lewis and I chat about the Euros, as well as some of our reported transfer targets, including:

🟢 Ben White: Intriguing, and worrying for William Saliba

🟢 James Maddison: Creative, exciting but quite expensive

🟢 Albert Sambi Lokonga: Ticks a lot of profile boxes

🟢 Aaron Ramsdale: Is that the best goalkeeper you can get for that much money?

All the links you need to listen/subscribe are below, enjoy the podcast. More blogging here tomorrow, and if there’s any breaking news, you know where to find it.


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